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The Fall of Stack Overflow, Defined – by Priyam

The Fall of Stack Overflow, Defined – by Priyam

2023-07-31 15:17:20

A latest submit went viral known as The Fall of Stack Overflow, detailing the way it’s visitors has dropped 35-50% during the last yr and a half.

The obvious reply is AI, as a result of ChatGPT is extraordinarily helpful as a coding companion. But, my expensive developer, that isn’t fully true.

If we glance intently, probably the most drastic drop begins round April of 2022, whereas ChatGPT got here out 7 months later in November. Whereas we do see drops each summer season (college breaks) and winter (office holidays), this drop in April 2022 is sustained and solely getting worse.

A free fall began in April 2022.

What I’m seeing here’s a everlasting drop which suggests… AI has changed builders for good.

Simply kidding, the reply is definitely that a lot of this drop has been years within the making, some self-inflicted by Stack Overflow itself.

There are 4 causes that designate the sluggish decline of Stack Overflow.

The primary purpose is definitely the quickest purpose. Stack Overflow hasn’t truly misplaced 50% of its visitors, its extra like 35%. In May 2022, Google Analytics changed how a cookie was stored due to privacy laws, leading to a reported 15% loss in traffic. The hyperlink above has an replace clearing this up.

For a spot to ask questions, Stack Overflow is surprisingly one of the poisonous and hostile boards on the web, however in a passive-aggressive manner. We’ve seen hundreds of complaints about Stack Overflow for over a decade, so the hostility and decline of Stack Overflow isn’t one thing new. 

There are lots of of Reddit posts about Stack Overflow’s hostility.

Folks have been speaking concerning the “Decline of Stack Overflow” for nearly a decade now.

Nevertheless it appears to have lastly caught.

This was from 14 YEARS in the past! 2009! The location its linking too doesn’t even exist anymore.

Typically, if you happen to attempt to ask a query on Stack Overflow, it’ll get marked as a replica with a hyperlink to a query that’s completely not a replica. Or the duplicate shall be to a query that was by no means answered. 

Different instances, legitimate questions will get downvoted.

Should you attempt to reply, you get downvoted.

Should you attempt to submit a remark.. wait, you’ll be able to’t! Since you don’t have sufficient karma.

For a neighborhood that’s so gate-kept by imaginary Web factors, there may be an unbelievable quantity of disrespect on the boards not by simply voting, but additionally by individuals commenting, similar to individuals passive-aggressively calling you dumb.

A typical incidence.

Whereas a examine by Stack Overflow in 2018 confirmed that about 7% of Stack Overflow comments are unwelcoming, that’s truly sufficient to scare a developer away from contributing.

A prevalence between 5% and 10% can have a big effect on a neighborhood. Let’s sketch out a back-of-the-napkin estimate. If a typical developer visits Stack Overflow a couple of times every week to resolve an issue, the query they go to has a solution, and every submit (query and reply) has two feedback (understand that feedback are extra seen to guests than solutions), we’d conservatively estimate {that a} developer visiting Stack Overflow would see 1 to three condescending, unwelcoming feedback each single month of their coding lives. Will one unwelcoming remark a month drive everybody away? Clearly not, as Stack Overflow nonetheless works for a lot of. However it is going to persuade some that it’s not price it to contribute right here, and the following month’s remark will persuade a number of extra, and so forth. And this solely considers the readers of those feedback; those that the feedback are directed at will naturally really feel extra dramatic results.


This makes the positioning primarily read-only for a majority of programmers. As an alternative, you head over to Reddit the place the programming neighborhood is far nicer.

Or now, you’ll be able to even go to ChatGPT, the place it’ll provide you with a confidently mistaken reply that appears so right that you just’ll spend one other 7 hours debugging why your code doesn’t work.

Stack Overflow’s outcomes have additionally fallen in Google, each actually in a numerical sense (now not at all times the first outcome) and in a “digital actual property” sense (generally its not even on the display screen).

Let’s perform a little experiment, lets? Let’s take 3 of the preferred programming questions and ask Google in an incognito window.

Be aware: Outcomes could fluctuate clearly. A customized Google search could return Stack Overflow first roughly typically, relying in your exercise.

Stack Overflow is ranked third right here, however greater than midway down the web page for me on a typical 27” monitor.

Stack Overflow is ranked third right here.

This is the 5th highest ranked question on Stack Overflow.

Stack Overflow is ranked 4th right here, however I don’t even must click on as a result of the featured snippet solutions it for me.

If I didn’t have a vertical monitor, I’d should… scroll.

This is the 2nd highest ranked question on Stack Overflow.

Right here’s the issue:

Google has featured snippets, which might reply a few of the commonest questions and not using a click on wanted.

Different instances, Stack Overflow isn’t even within the high 2, and even the highest 5 hyperlinks on the web page.

Featured snippets, associated questions, and YouTube movies additionally get added in, which generally pushes Stack Overflow even decrease on the display screen.

Demoted midway down the display screen attributable to featured snippets and associated questions.

The info reveals that the #1 end in Google will get 27.6% of all clicks and the highest 3 outcomes get nearly 55% of all of the clicks.

See Also

Should you’re not within the high 3 outcomes.. visitors drops exponentially.

Lastly, the apparent reply, AI. ChatGPT is definitely notoriously good for coding. I don’t even use it for anything at this level. 

AI did speed up it’s fall, wanting on the steep decline since Nov 30, 2022.

ChatGPT was launched on November 30, 2022.

Is that this honest? Probably not. Stack Overflow supplied all this knowledge at no cost, maintained this website for many years, after which OpenAI comes alongside, scrapes it, and trains their fashions on it. No matter how you are feeling about Stack Overflow’s customers and moderators, operating a website like that isn’t low cost. 

This could be a drawback sooner or later. With much less questions being requested and answered on-line, there’s much less knowledge for AI to coach on. And the way will AI get higher if there’s much less human knowledge? So if everybody turns to utilizing ChatGPT to attempt to debug their obscure React 18 or C++21 drawback, then when C++72 or React 37 comes out, we could also be somewhat screwed.

And it’s not going to be straightforward for future knowledge scrapers both. Corporations, like Reddit and Twitter (X?) are wisening as much as AI knowledge scrapers by beginning to cost for his or her API.

However, it is smart why programmers choose AI over Stack Overflow.

AI is quick – you don’t want to attend to your query to be answered.

AI is good – you don’t want to attend to your query to be marked as duplicate.

And AI follows up with you politely – you gained’t get known as dumb for asking your query or posting follow-up feedback.

However bear in mind – quite a lot of instances, AI is mistaken. Nonetheless, AI is only a device, not a alternative.

Stack Overflow’s decline could proceed, particularly with Google’s Search Labs in beta. Now you actually don’t must click on and even learn. Simply search and duplicate.

Stack Overflow was truly proper below this, however.. one much less click on + a nifty copy button? As a lot as I need SO to outlive… that is actually neat.

In response to the narratives of decline. Stack Overflow launched OverflowAI.

And I bought to attempt it – right here’s a sneak peek.


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